Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Alabama to March 1, Joins SEC Primary

On Thursday, May 21, the Alabama House passed legislation moving the presidential primary (and those for other offices) up a week to the first Tuesday in March. The measure, SB 240, had already passed the state Senate earlier in the 2015 session.

Both moves, neither of which garnered more than three dissenting votes along the way, cleared the way for the bill to be transmitted to Governor Robert Bentley (R) for his signature. But that signature never came. Instead the bill sat on the governor's desk as the clock ran down on the state legislature's work for 2015.

This is noteworthy because that potentially put the Alabama presidential primary move in pocket veto territory; a bill passed late in the legislative session but not signed before the legislature adjourns. A bill not signed under those circumstances is vetoed. However, the legislative session ended on Thursday, June 4, two weeks after it passed both legislative chambers and was transmitted to the governor. That is close to the end of the session, but not close enough to trigger a pocket veto.

The reason for that is based on two related rules. First, bills passed by the legislature and sent to the governor have six days (not counting Sundays) to be signed. After that a passed bill becomes law without the signature of the governor. Second, due to the six day window created in that rule, only bills passed in the last five days of the legislative session are open to a pocket veto (those passed bills that do not have a full six day window for gubernatorial consideration).

The SEC primary bill was never in any danger of being pocket vetoed, but it did become law after Thursday, May 28 without Governor Bentley's signature. Alabama joins Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas on March 1. Georgia will also be a part of the southern regional primary that can also claim Oklahoma and Virginia. Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont will also conduct primaries or caucuses on that date.

UPDATE (6/9/15, 7:30pm): Odd timing, but news broke (via Mike Cason at AL.com) after the posting of this piece that Governor Bentley signed SB 240 on Wednesday, May 27. That message was apparently not delivered to the Alabama state legislature as of this afternoon (screen grab):

The assignment of an act number seems to only come after a gubernatorial signature (This was the case with the 2011 bill that created a consolidated March primary.) or the expiration of the six day window mentioned above in the original text of the post.

And Secretary of State John Merrill's office press release from late this afternoon indicates that the bill will be signed tomorrow morning at 10am (screen grab):

There's a seemingly weird level of confusion on this one. Regardless, Alabama will have a March 1 presidential primary in 2016.

UPDATE (6/10/15): Ceremonial signing.

Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: